Sunday, December 30, 2018

Outdoor Lighting That's Believable

Supplementary Lighting: This photo appeared in two posts so far. I decided to use it once more, as I realized it illustrates a point Joe McNally made about supplementary lighting, and how to make the viewer accept it as an natural part of the environment and not an afterthought by the photographer. I made this photo with that intent clearly in mind.

A photographer friend  saw this image and assumed it was an available light photo. This was probably due to two conscious actions on my part. First, the bright lamps at the back of the parking lot were included to suggest that there are powerful lights in the parking lot. Second, the primary light, a flash with a dome-type diffuser, was placed well above the camera axis, giving the feeling that the subject was standing at the base of a street light. These two factors make the image totally believable, and help the viewer concentrate on the subject.

Accent Light In The Background: This earlier attempt, made in April of 2018, was an early attempt of multiple flash used in a "run and gun" environment. Even a casual viewer will notice that Cissie is standing in the background clearly holding the monopod with the flash. It pretty obvious that she's not a part of the natural surroundings,and while the image is fun, she does distract the viewer.

Cropping Can Help: Here, I cropped Cissie from the composition but kept the light itself because I wanted to maintain a 8x10 aspect ratio. Now it's a little easier to concentrate on my three dancers, but the viewer is still left with the question, "What's that big ball of light doing in the photo?"

In the future, I'll need to establish an extended command vocabulary to my "VAL" or Voice Actuated Lightstand.  Should I need to apply a similar lighting solution in the future, my commands will probably include:

Closer: Keep the light to subject distance constant, but move closer to me along an arc. This would have moved Cissie closer to the right edge of the frame.

Farther: Just the opposite, this would move Cissie to a position behind the subjects, which is also an option, since I won't need to maintain a line-of-sight between my camera and the flash.

Nearer: Decrease the light-to-subject distance by moving closer to the subjects along a straight line.

Farther: Increase the distance, as above.

Square Crop: This final, severe crop completely eliminates the distractions of of Cissie and the flash "fireball", and makes this image perfectly acceptable, so long as the view doesn't mind a square format.

How Close Is Too Close? Good question, and one that is easily answered. If my VAL can look at the subjects and NOT see any signs of nose, the the position is a good one. The worst thing one can do when using an accent light is to allow the light to skim across the side of the nose. Providing Cissie looks at the subject from behind the monopod, she can tell when a bit of nose becomes visible. When that happens, she can re-position herself until the nose/s is/are no longer visible. An accent light that grazes the cheek is perfectly acceptable, and as you can tell from the subject at camera right, I was nowhere near that critical point.

This is pretty sophisticated stuff for a run-and-gun managed candid photo, but I never intended for this photo to be published.  If this sort of opportunity presents itself again, I won't hesitate to take the steps to refine the lighting.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Bethlehem 2018

Spoiler Alert: Spoiler alert? Well, nothing went wrong, and everything went right, mostly.

Bethlehem AD (BAD.) is an annual event I have been photographing since 2013. This recreation of Bethlehem as it might have appeared during the first Christmas was, at the time, shrouded in mystique, and event where parking would be impossible, the night dark and cold, and like Brigadoon, would appear for only three magical evenings and then vanish. It was those three days that would cause a problem.

Bethlehem 2013 A.D.
My goal has always been to get a photo published in time for the Journal's readers to attend the event, spurred on by the intense interest my photo was likely to inspire (Yeah, right). To some extent, my very first image did just that, being well remembered by the organizers of BAD, one going so far as calling me "THE Tom Jung, the one who made that great photo of King Herod." Sad to say, it may have been beginner's luck, as I've not submitted a better shot, though many came fairly close. But I digress.

This year, BAD ran from Friday through Sunday. By the time I submitted a photo opening night, the Saturday/Sunday paper would have already been "put to bed" and the photo wouldn't appear until Monday morning, the day after it was all over.

I knew this well in advance, and when actors from this year's BAD marched in Redwood City's Holiday Parade, I made a quick photo of these two costumed chicken wranglers which could be used to promote the event if I couldn't get anything better. Too bad I don't speak Chicken - If I did, I'd get these two hens to look up and smile. But I digress.

My lucky break came when the director invited me to the dress rehearsal scheduled for the night before the big opening. If I could get a shot on Thursday night and submit it Friday morning, it would be in running for publication over the weekend.  Perfect!

When I arrived, the Heavenly Host was already in place beside and above the manger, dancing to the sound track that would bring an audio backdrop for the tableau. Since another photographer was already flash photographing the set, I felt free to mount a radio-triggered flash on a tall light stand, knowing that I couldn't be any more distracting than the photographer already working the set. The dancers, already accustomed to having spotlights pointed directly at them, didn't seem to notice.

I made almost 100 photos, trying to get the flow of the gowns just right. I also wanted to have some hint of the Creche without having it draw attention away from my primary angel. In the end, I submitted the image at the top of this post. I wasn't really happy with the dancer in the background, but since her face was concealed, she didn't draw the viewer's attention away from the foreground.

Lighting Issues: I used a single flash mounted on a light stand about 8' above the ground. In spite of the specularity of the single sight source, its elevated position helps to create the shadows that define the gown, giving details to the pale garment. The combination of a high ISO setting and the power of the flash allowed me to use a relatively constant 20' flash to subject distance, simplifying my worries about my shooting position.

Warning Light. Looking at these images, you might not realized that it's really dark out there, and that a black light stand would be an accident waiting to happen. I happened to have an LED head lamp in my bag, so I set it to the "blink" mode and hung it from the light stand, pointing down. My logic was that people will (hopefully) look down when walking over uneven ground, and spot the blinking light and walk around it. For the few minutes I was actually shooting, it seemed to work.

The whole shootin' match was over by 9:00 pm, so I went home knowing that there would be plenty to time to get the image to the paper before the 4:00 pm Friday deadline. Everybody seemed pleased with the photo, but I am still wondering if there was a better image that I might have captured had I been more patient, or more attentive. Just like fishing, when after catching a trophy-sized bass, you can't help but wonder if there's an even larger fish, waiting, watching, and laughing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Treats For The Screaming Eagles

Airborne! The 101st Airborne Division is San Mateo's own, an honor that dates back to the Viet Nam war era. Officially adopted in 1968, San Mateo really rolled out the red carpet for the 50th Anniversary celebration in June of this year. Every year, goodies and thank you cards arrive at City Hall, which will be delivered to the troops in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, before their deployment to Afghanistan in late December.

As a photo, this shot isn't noteworthy, but in some ways the back story is. The photo was made on a Monday, which happened to be the first day of my call to Jury Duty. As it turned out, our first meeting was re-scheduled to the following Tuesday, so all of a sudden I had the time to make this photo. I grabbed my normal Fuji kit bag and my press pass, and at the last moment decided to bring my Justin Case, something I swore I'd bring to every event, "just in case". With my Fuji kit bag and my Justin Case, I entered City Hall, ready to go.

Ready On The Set? My subjects were most helpful, moving a pile of treats to front counter for the photo.  This was the best compromise as it required the least amount of work while providing a suitable office background. To my shock, when I checked by Fuji bag, there was no speedlight to be found! After a deep breath, I remembered that I had experimented with a Fuji-dedicated Adorama flash, which I used in my last assignment. I removed it to change the batteries and apparently forgot to return it to the kit. But having that spare SB-80 saved the day for me, allowing me to proceed without delay.

Pound Foolish: I guess I went overboard in assembling a lighter Fuji kit to ease my aching shoulders, and while my two bodies and three lenses could potentially cover any disaster, my failure to replace that primary flash was a potentially disastrous oversight. Now my much heavier Nikon kit bag includes two bodies, three lenses, and as many as three speedlights, but was left at home since this was a relatively simple assignment. But today, I was so thankful that I thought to bring my little emergency kit, and that in a few seconds, I was back in the game.

After mounting the flash in the hotshoe,  I aimed it at the white ceiling and pulled out the built-in bounce card. The resulting image was acceptable, although I wished I could have lightened the background, something I could have easily done if I had a second flash.  But I didn't, so the shot was made with what I had with me. It reminded me of how important flashes are to my work, and neglecting to have a backup for something so important was foolish in the extreme.

As we approach the Winter Solstice, be sure to celebrate its arrival in any manner you see fit, so long as you bring to it the kindness and compassion we should show to everyone, all year round.  As Kinky Freeman said in a radio interview, "May you be blessed by the God of your choice!"

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Christmas Comes To Redwood City

Hometown Holidays: On the first Saturday of every December, Redwood City throws a parade and block party to celebrate the holiday season. It is an all-day affair, running from 10:00 am until 8:00 pm, with dancing, music, a visit from Santa, and a parade down main street.  I was here at the request of the Editor In Chief, and since it was potentially a fun assignment, decided to attend. I couldn't spend the entire day, so I decided to concentrate on the evening activities, since I would have opportunities to experiment with lighting.

I was using with a new lighting setup (more on that later) when I was accosted by this dancing green alligator. She was wondering if I would take a group photo of her pre-schoolers who had just finished marching in the parade. Of course I said yes, thinking that this might be the photo I would submit if nothing else showed. And with a group this large, I wasn't realistically obligated to get every person's name.

Working with groups is never really easy, but when working with these kids, it was more like photographing cats. I had to call on the adults to help the youngsters settle down and pay attention to the stranger with the camera.

I managed to make three shots,and this one had the most faces looking at the camera. It wasn't 100%, but not a bad effort, considering I was fighting a combination of youthful excitement and "I need my nap" stupor. If you look closely, you can see the napping twins in their stroller, catching up on their sleep.

Back At The Parade: As we made our way towards the parade, this pair of young chicken wranglers came as part of the Bethlehem 2018 AD contingency. In 2018 it would be a Friday through Sunday event, so unless the paper "held the presses" on Friday night for a Saturday publication, the photo was destined to run on Monday, the day after the event was over.  This photo could be used to publicize the event in advance.

Dancing In The Street: Other members for the Bethlehem marching group were dancing down the street, and I caught this photo showing the flowing "cape" as she twirled. It also shows some of the shortcomings of using flash at night outdoors. With reflective surfaces, you lose a lot of light in the sky, and the radius of proper illumination, measured from the flash, is a narrow band.  Subjects in front of, or in back of, this band will be over and underexposed, respectively. The only way to minimize the effect is to move the flashed farther from your subjects, but the resulting loss of light intensity requires a powerful flash and a very long light stand.

1/250th second, F 4.0, ISO 1600
The Money Shot: I needed to get the names of the two chicken wranglers from the earlier shot, so I followed the group back to the church. I manged to locate them both and get their names and contact information. I now had two potential shots, although I wasn't happy with either one. Still, I wasn't going to go home empty handed, so Cissie and I headed back to my car.

On the way out, I found this "angel" with her winged companion, getting ready to go home too. When I saw how the streetlight in the background gave a "glow" about them, I thought I would try to blend that highlight with the light from a flash, so I made a sample exposure. Examining the image, I did indeed have a "pooped pooch", and this might have made a cute photo if I had more detail in the background. But when the flash went off, the dog was alerted to my presence, and the potential moment was lost.

For the record, the flash had a full CTO gel taped to the flash tube, and the camera's white balance was set to the Incandescent preset.

1/2 second, F 4.0, ISO 1600
Hail Mary! In an act of subdued desperation, I increased the exposure time to 1/2 second, just to see how how the evening sky would appear. On seeing the blurred (and awful!) results, I decreased the exposure by three "clicks", giving me a setting of 1/16 of a second.

Having made these adjustments, I had to get the dog's attention before I made the shot. Without thinking, I started to growl, then bark, at my subject, and she responded in kind, looking to see where the sounds were coming from. My imitation must not have been very good, as the expression I got was more quizzical than combative.

1/16th second, F 4.0, ISO 1600
Here's the final shot. I used the reticulated LCD to get a lower perspective, and while this method allows for a more relaxed evaluation of the overall composition, it makes it more difficult to establish critical focus as it is sometimes difficult to locate the focusing brackets when the camera is held away from the eye. Close examination showed that the dog's collar was slightly out of focus, and there is overall softness in the image. This could be due to the relatively long exposure time, but luckily for me most of the subject blur will only be found in the hair highlights and the illuminated tiara.

Click here to find a U.K. Dealer
The Equipment: This assignment was a test run for the Magmod Magbounce, a new take on the tried and true Gary Fong Cloud Dome. In theory, the open front of the device allows more light to illuminate the subject without first passing through the opaque plastic dome of the Gary Fong unit. It is also very quick to deploy, since the dome can be stuffed into a camera bag more easily than the Fong Dome can be collapsed. And the fancy magnet system makes the "on and off" process even easier.

Let me submit my opinion on all of these "domes" and their effect on your photography. The position of your light in relation to your subject is more important than the size of the light source. Even though the surface area is a bit larger than the Gary Fong unit, these modifiers come into their own when mounted off camera, which I do using a monopod like I'd use a light stand. Based on the group shot at the top of this post, it appears that the Mag Bounce creates a hard lower edge to the light pattern that you don't have with the Fong Sphere. This thing needs to be aimed carefully.

One Last Point: The stuff is expensive. It will cost more to get into a Magbounce system than the Gary Fong unit. What you're paying for is ease of setup. I was an early Gary Fong adopter, and own nearly every iteration of his cloud domes and  light spheres. I don't think the Magbounce or its sibling the Magdome are better, just faster to deploy.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Dia De Los Muertos

I attended the Dia De Los Muertos celebration in Redwood City simply because I was on the peninsula anyway, and having never photographed the event, decided to drop by. I arrived late for the event (scheduled time 4:00 pm, arrival time 4:20 pm) thinking this would be a walk-around hunt for photos. It turns out it was a stage show, and as a late comer, had to take a third-row orchestra position, meaning I would have many heads to shoot over. In addition, it was getting close to sunset and the stage was a mixture of direct, low angled afternoon sun and open shade. I followed my own advice of keeping my subjects "all in" the shade, or "all out", meaning afternoon sunlight.

I decided that I would limit myself to two Fuji lenses: my go-to 10-24 F 4.0 and my 50-200 variable aperture zoom. I thought I'd have a chance to move in our out if I needed a lens between the 25 and 49mm gap my lens choice created. Stuck as I was in the mosh pit of spectators, I could  have tight close-ups or wide angle vistas, but nothing in between. Add to that the constant movement of the dancers and you find yourself really wishing for the faster predictive auto-focus provided by my heavier but more responsive DSLRs, but a choice is a choice, and my shoulders were thanking me for choosing a lighter kit. The sharpness of the opening shot of this post was because my subject was stationary, making it easier for the camera to lock focus.

I continued to make satisfactory, but unsatisfying, photos of the performers. I left after an hour of shooting, concluding that a number of these photos would do, but none jumped out at me.

1/8 second, F 5.6, ISO 1600
Just as I was leaving, I decided to try to make one last photo, much as a fisherman decides to cast out his bait one last time before quitting. With the lit trees and the fading skyline as a background, I photographed these two sisters using a flash bounced from the walls of a convenient food kiosk. This was a photo I could live with, and shortly afterward, went home.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Halloween With The Coroner

Press Release: The opening sentence of the Press Invitation was innocent enough:

"The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and Coroner's Office cordially invites Law Enforcement and the Public to attend their annual Open House: October 30th..."

The  Coroner's Office? For kids? Wouldn't that be icky?

I was to learn that there was so much more to the Sheriff's Office which houses the county's forensic laboratory where evidence from crime scenes goes to be analyzed. I should have known this because we once offered a class titled "CSI San Mateo" taught by a one of the department's own forensic experts. I must add that this tour of the lab, scheduled the day before Halloween, was totally child-friendly, and with the staff dressed as pirates, both entertaining and fun.

I was trying to bring back a photo that showed some of the interaction between the visitors and the spirited and costumed technicians turned docents.  Each one, dressed as a pirate, or pirate supernumerary, explained Forensic Biology's function and answered questions. I thought this shot had some potential, mainly because if you look closely, you can see that our docent is pregnant, and that her t-shirt has a little baby pirate skeleton on it. I didn't submit the photo because there was nothing to associate the photo with alab's function,  the docent's neck scarf minimized the effect of the costume, and there was an identifiable face of a minor at the side.

This next photo came much closer to meeting my original criterion, but the display on wall needed to be shown at full width if the "Controlled Substances" title was to be understood, forcing me to include a lot of background that didn't add to the context of the photo.  Also, the gap in the student grouping bothered me. Had the students been packed tighter, I might have considered it. One thing I liked was the name given to the docent: "Ruth Sailor Windsburg". I admit to not getting the joke until much later, even though she was holding a judge's gavel.

1/16 second, F 5.0, ISO 640
Gallows Humor: This proves that there is a sense of humor at the Forensic's Laboratory. Here, a "murdered" skeleton lies in arrested anguish for all see. There was a purpose to this macabre display: The number indicates where crucial evidence might be found, and the visitors, knowing this was a crime scene, made mental notes of what sort of information might be gathered.

The small size of the room made if difficult to photograph from any aspect other than a "Hail Mary", high overhead camera angle, which is not all that steady. Extended exposure times would be needed to properly illuminate the background, which in this case was fabric carefully taped over a glass door. Exposure was a careful balance between the aperture necessary for a reasonable ceiling bounced exposure and the time required to properly render the background. Exposure wise, I was quite pleased with this photo, but without additional context clues to help the viewer understand the photo, it's a "no cigar" photo.

The tour was then ushered into the garage where the "CSI Mobile" is kept, and when necessary, cars can be examined for possible evidence. Here a mermaid explains how stains from a t-shirt can be analyzed for suspect DNA, material evidence, and damaged fibers which might match samples gathered at the crime scene. There were about five different stations, each cross-referenced to evidence found at the crime scene.

The image ran on Page 2 of the November 1 issue, which as I said before was still a position of honor, since this is normally reserved for an international photo from one of the news services. Like so many of my other photos, it exists simply as a brief moment in the history of San Mateo, a moment that was special to the staff at the county's  San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and Coroner's Office and to some lucky middle school students on a fun field trip.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Photo In A Brewery Tasting Room

1/15 second, F 5.6, ISO 1000
The assignment called for a photo of a charity award presentation at The Devil's Canyon Brewing Company in San Carlos. An unusual venue for an award ceremony, to say the least, so it immediately got my attention. I had now idea what to expect, but I wanted a chance to mix artificial (flash) lighting with a variety of ambient sources.

Visual Elements: I wanted the image to have the following visual elements:
  • The Brewing Company's Name to establish a location context,
  • The industrial ambiance to add some visual interest to the background, and
  • Anything else I could find.
Ambient Light Sources: I had several sources of ambient light to address:
  • The skylight visible at the roof line in the  background which created the accent on the floor, camera right,
  • Another skylight on the wall me,
  • The accent lights on the wall behind the bar, and
  • A ceiling light that provided the warm accent at camera right.

1/16 of a second, F 6.4, ISO 800, with 2 Nikon speedlights (see arrows) aimed towards the ceiling
Supplementary Background Lighting: A simple go-to technique is to add some remote accent lights to give some detail to the background. Two Nikon speedlights in SU-4 Mode (optical remote) were placed on the far ends of the  bar. This would give me enough detail in the ceiling to make the features just recognizable.

Key Lighting: The main, or Key light was provided by a Adorama Li-on Flash shot through a white shoot-through umbrella mounted on a Manfrotto Compact Monopod, both of which store neatly inside of a Vangard Veo 37 camera bag. While not particularly sturdy, the monopod extends to almost 5' and can easily support a single speedlight and an umbrella, if held vertically. This allows me to extend the monopod to full length and, if you can rest it on a chair, an assistant can get the flash almost 7' off the ground.

1/8 second, F 5.6, ISO 1000
Hurry Up And Wait: The photo was to have gone down at 6:10 pm but as traffic would have it, major accidents prevented my subjects from arriving until 6:50. With everything on the schedule pushed back, the pressure was on to get this over with.

The waiting had a serious consequence: The natural ambient light provided by the skylights was fading, and I had to lengthen my exposure if I was going to use it in the exposure. I was now wrestling with the background lighting since my flash would take care of the foreground. This was one of my first test shots, so I was free to adjust exposure, so long as it could be done quickly.

1/2 second, F 5.6, ISO 1000
The Money Shot: The final exposure was increased to 1/2 second to help bring out the background highlights. I knew the exposure would be a long one, so I warned my subjects to hold VERY still and not move until I brought the camera away from my eye. You can see that the final included a final late-comer, and he was inserted with little difficulty.

If you compare the exposure data from the image at the top of this post, you can see that I had to increase my exposure by three stops to maintain detail in the background. Holding still for 1/4 of a second should be considered unwise based on the "inverse focal length rule", created to give you the approximate longest recommended exposure for a given focal length of lens.  EXIF data for the image lists the lens focal length at 13.8 mm, which I multiplied by 1.5 to compensate for the crop factor of the Fuji's APS sized sensor. With an effective focal length of 20.25 mm, the rules concludes the the longest, wobble-free exposure should be 1/20.25, or about 1/20 of a second. The enlarge portion of the image clearly shows the effects of my long exposure time, but the beer menu in the background is sufficiently sharp for our purposes.

I am satisfied by the results, even though evidence of my attempts to partially illuminate the ceiling details are not readily apparent. In situations like this, the final composition must be modified on the fly, especially when the size of the group starts to grow, as it did here. I found comfort in knowing that whatever shooting angle I finally took, the speedlights had my background realistically illuminated.

The photo ran a week later, along with a photo for Tip A Cop, and fundraiser held by the San Mateo Police Department to raise money for the Special Olympics.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Miss Saigon

Photo by Michael Le Poer Trench and Matthew Murphy
In September of 1989, the musical Miss Saigon opened at theTheater Royal in London, and subsequently debuted on Broadway in 1991. In an iconic scene depicting the fall of  Saigon and the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy, a reproduction of a Huey arrives on stage and is seen airlifting the last evacuees from the compound. And to add to the indignity, the choppers, after discharging their passengers on waiting ships at sea, were shown on the news being unceremoniously dumped into the ocean, as if to emphasize the one-way nature of their last flights.

I suppose it was no accident that the stylized calligraphy on the publicity poster faintly resembles a doomed Huey "slick" plunging back to earth after completing its final mission.

Segue To 2018.  A new production of Miss Saigon is traveling across the country and is currently in San Francisco. As such, it rates a mention in the Journal's entertainment section. As it turned out, members of the cast would be visiting EMU Incorporated, a Hayward-based, non-profit organization that maintains a fully restored Bell UH-1 helicopter, the same chopper that figured so prominently in our collective memories of the war. 

First Shot: Cast members were invited to climb aboard EMU 309, and once inside four actors, Joven Calloway, Jonelle Margallo, Brandon Block, and Michael Russell, spontaneously decided that a selfie was required to immortalize the event. As soon as I saw that Mr. Calloway had decorated his smartphone with the iconic Miss Saigon logo, I knew I had my shot.
Technical Note: This photo was made using a flash bounced off the wall behind me. The mixture of natural ambient and artificial light made for a strange color mix, and since I had a white(ish) wall behind me, I decided to use it. The setup wasn't perfect, as there was some fall-off on the subjects who were farthest from the door.

Preflight: After a while, the great bird was rolled out onto the field and prepared for takeoff. The ground crew began its meticulous preflight check, and in a few minutes, the cast members were allowed to board the helicopter. Due to the noise, everybody was issued hearing protection. One additional passenger was  Torque, EMU 309's K9 Mascot. Torque took his place by the door, and would be secured by a harness when in flight. He was obviously eager to join the cast, and quickly made friends with everybody.

Torque is both a unit mascot and a reminder of the valuable service dogs played during the conflict, having served as scouts, trackers, sentries, and mine and booby trap detectors.

Final Shot: Just before the first flight took off, the cast and EMU crew members posed for a group shot. I waited until everybody else had made their own photos, and then proceeded to tighten up the group to make my shot. Again, flash was essential for bringing out the details that would otherwise be lost in shadows. Shots made under similar lighting circumstances without supplementary flash often suffer from highlight overexposure when the photographer attempts to improve shadow detail. A shoe-mounted flash, combined with the small amounts of existing ambient, added just enough detail without looking over-lit or unnatural.

So Where's Torque? For me, the photo was a near miss because of Torque's position in the group photo. A black dog sitting in front of two cast members in dark clothing rendered him almost invisible. Doh!

Next time, I'll invite the two gentlemen in white to move to positions behind Torque so that he could be seen. And I'm sure I could have convinced Mr. Vest to remove it so that Torque could have his moment in the limelight!

X-70 Backup: Ever since I installed a filter and fixed lens hood on my X-70, I feel totally comfortable letting it ride around inside my camera bag uncased. Easily accessible, it's ready to go in the event the sunlight gets totally out of hand and a flash supplemented exposure of 1/500 of a second or faster is required. Granted, I am sure to flinch if the filter is ever scratched (I went with a moderately expensive B&W UV), but the assurances that the front element of the lens being properly protected are worth the cost.

From Page 20 of the October 19, 2018 on-line edition

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Japanese Culture Day 2018

West Meets East: I attended Millbrae's Japanese Culture Day intending to make a photograph that combined as many elements that illustrated the celebration of the eastern and western dynamic. When I noticed that the backdrop featured both American and Japanese flags, it was an easy go-to background to help build on that theme. I watched a number of performances and settled on this dancer performing a traditional Japanese folk dance. From where I crouched, a perfect combination of composition, context, and expression was not possible, but I believed this photo was the best compromise of these three qualities.

Mayor-San: One of the guests was Komei Kawata, mayor of Hanyu, Japan. He was giving a welcoming speech to the many guests when I noticed the twin flags at the podium. Again, I included them in the composition, but because of my position, was unable to "move them closer". Like the shot at the top of the page, I was pretty much stuck in one location, and while it worked for my dancer, it wasn't optimal for the Mayor. 

Incidentally, the hat was a paper origami construction large enough to wear, and had no special significance, according to an aide to the Japanese Consulate, who was in attendance.

Kids: Okay, this was my attempt at shameless pandering to readers whose kids might make it to the front page photo. In this case, I still had the flags, and hoped that the adult coaches (Did you see the man crouching behind his daughter?) would add a bit to the back story.

I submitted this second shot because of the interaction between the singers and the woman at the  right. Her posture and expression were better than the first sample, and while I had enough pixels to crop it tighter, I felt that the more children, the better. I'm sure that there are dozens of grandparents who are thankful that I included so many of the little darlings.

Making Mochi: In this photo, taken through an opening in the tent's mesh walls, we see two volunteers using mallets to pound rice flour until it reaches a doughy consistency. It will be formed by hand into the familiar balls of mochi. In this shot, the mallet is not easily recognized, so it wasn't submitted. Also, there was a lot of empty space, which I try to avoid.

I was restricted from entering the food preparation area, so most of these shots had me reaching through openings in the tent with a Fuji X70 held high overhead. I used an Nikon SB-80 aimed into the ceiling with a paper plate used as a bounce card. In this case, the tent provided a low bouncing surface, so the plate was more of a fill card.

I submitted this photo as an illustration of a step in the process. It has the advantage of illustrating the attention of the two subjects, although what they're actually doing requires a detailed caption.

Editor's Choice: In the end, the Editor In Chief chose this photo to run on Page 1 of the Wednesday edition. I almost gave up on any of the photos making the paper, but there is something to be said about the universal appeal of kids performing on stage for what may be their very first time.

Time To Go: The party was still going strong when I finally left at 2:00 pm. I wanted to get some lunch before heading back to the city to process and submit the day's take. I photographed this young lady partly out of envy, as I often wish that happiness could be found by simply wearing a top with my favorite animal and eating/drinking a bowl of Hawaiian shaved ice.